The essential library you need – and why
by Emma Davis and Tom Hall
Archery by USA Archery
Published by Human Kinetics Publishers, 2013
The official handbook from USA Archery, this book sets out to provide a comprehensive guide to all areas of shooting recurve and compound. As a reference book it contains a wealth of information, with chapters covering aspects of equipment set up and tuning, training methods and planning, technique and mental strategies. Topics are divided up into self-contained chapters, with contributions by KiSik Lee, Guy Krueger and Butch Johnson, among other well-known names.
A large bulk of the book is dedicated to recurve shooting technique in the form of the KiSik Lee NTS method, with a thorough explanation of why this method has been chosen. This is the standard approach to shooting that is taught in USA and it has a lot going for it, as evidenced by the success of USA archers such as Brady Ellison – who provides a effusive foreword recommending the book to anyone and everyone.
However, the full NTS method as written requires high levels of physical strength and endurance and there are arguably more bio-mechanically efficient techniques, such as the Korean method. In particular, the NTS method is favoured more markedly by the USA men’s team, while the USA women’s team exhibits more variety in approach.
The chapter on making practice more effective is also to be taken with a pinch of salt; a beginner sample training plan involves shooting upwards of 1,000 arrows a week across five training sessions and the intermediate training plan looks closer to a full-time job! There’s some good theory in here about periodising your training, but don’t feel you need to add everything in at once.
Some of the most interesting sections are those that are potentially most likely to be overlooked. The first chapter, if you filter through the factual information specific to the structure of USA Archery, sees Butch Johnson take the reader on a philosophical exploration of what it means to be a competitive archer.
There are simple concepts here that the majority of us could benefit from thinking about, such as the quality of our training environment or the purpose of our goals. Similarly, it would be easy to skip past the chapter on nutrition and physical training, but the section on shoulder strength training is vital for injury prevention.
The chapter on preparing and peaking for competition also makes an interesting theoretical read that should prompt some deeper thinking about how you plan your season.
For those still learning their shooting technique (which is 99.9% of us!) this is a great resource to try things from and use to explore a particular shooting style. Most archers, coaches or parents would benefit from reading this book, and then by keeping it as a point of reference to inform (but not dictate) their onward journey.
Bullseye Mind by Raymond Prior
Published by Momentum Media Sports Publishing, 2016
This is a rather slim book, which perhaps might give the illusion that the contents are light or limited, but this is very much not true. Designed as a short guide on psychology for rifle shooting, Bullseye Mind targets the most commonly made mental errors and gives detailed guidance on how to combat them.
The similarities between rifle shooting and archery as sports allows for straightforward transposition into a frame of reference appropriate for our sport and all the key principles ring true.
The book is divided into many short, dense chapters, each presenting a specific common flaw in mental preparation or routine, rationalising how this can hinder the achievement of consistent performance and presenting a simple method on how to think differently.
Topics include the dangers of not having a consistent pre-shot routine, the common mistake of over-engaging the ego, how to deal with fear and anger whilst competing, and a lovely section on not putting limits on your dreams – it’s okay to dream big so long as you have an action plan.
This problem/solution format is very easy to digest and makes it possible to pick up the book and immediately select an area to focus on that feels particularly relevant to you – a massive benefit for those that struggle to keep focus from cover to cover. Crucially, pretty much everything in here can be applied straight away, and the principles outlined are evidence-based and logical in their presentation.
Each chapter is centred around an anonymised case study based on athletes that the author has specifically worked with, used as examples to provide context and make the ideas presented more relatable. This works very well, providing the reader with more guidance on how to identify similar problems within their own mental performance.
The end of chapter contributions also provide an insight into the elite level performance mindset, with contributors including multiple Olympic medallists, national coaches, world champions and even a team leader from the US Marine Corps!
Despite all of these positive elements, don’t expect any quick fixes. The author, who has a PhD in Sports and Exercise Psychology and has worked with Olympic champions, is careful to stress that he is not a magician.
You will not find any short-term tips or tricks in this book, but instead a guide on how to build mental toughness over time through practice and persistence using “good information and common sense”. The goal is a sustainable mindset that requires commitment and continued effort to build.
Evidently, from the wealth of success experienced by the various contributors to this book, these methods can be a powerful tool. So long as you don’t expect it to change your shooting overnight then there’s no telling where it could take you.